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Want a balloon? 12 nightmare-inducing movie clowns who kept us up at night

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Twenty-seven years ago, the TV version of Stephen King’s IT introduced the world to Pennywise the clown, the terrifying central character in what is perhaps King’s scariest story. And this September Pennywise is making his big screen debut in the new IT movie.

Clown fear is so common it even has a name - “Coulrophobia”. But given how the movies have always portrayed clowns, maybe it’s no mystery why we’re so terrified of them… Here are our favourites...

Poltergeist (1982)

Not a real clown this one, but still a terrifying one. Given all the special effects in the movie, it’s remarkable how the scariest scene is still a grinning toy sitting in a chair. And when it leaves the chair... Let's just say an entire generation were scarred for life. In fact Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg's classic chiller was probably more responsible for making us scared of movie clowns than anything else.


Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

A movie every bit as goofy as the title suggests, this sci-fi horror-comedy features, well, killer clowns from outer space. Quite WHY they look like Earth clowns is never explained, but they’re by far the most frightening thing about the gleefully silly B-movie. A sequel, again directed by Stephen Chiodo, is due for release, 30 years on, in September 2018.


Clownhouse (1989)

Can you think of anything worse that three escaped serial killers… DRESSED AS CLOWNS?? That’s the setup for this gruesome slasher flick, directed by Jeepers Creepers’ Victor Salva.


Stephen King's IT (1990)

If ever a horror movie was made by a single performance, this is it. Rocky Horror legend Tim Curry's unforgettably menacing take on King villain Pennywise is a nightmare made real, possessed of a throaty rasp, blood-filled balloons and a disquieting painted visage that can transform into animalistic terror on a dime. Will Bill Skarsgard live up to his legacy this September? We'll have to see.


Gacy (2003)

There are few photos as terrifying of the picture of serial killer John Wayne Gacy in a clown costume. One of America’s most notorious murderers, Gacy would often do charitable work at kids' parties dressed as a clown, and it’s at one of those parties that he was snapped waving and holding some balloons, looking like the most sinister clown you’ve ever seen. This 2003 movie tells his story, with lookalike Mark Holton in the role of the deadly Gacy.


S.I.C.K. Serial Insane Clown Killer (2003)

A killer clown preys on a pair of friends in the woods in this awkwardly titled, and incredibly cheap, thriller.


Drive-Thru (2007)

Horror gets supersized when Horny The Clown, the demonic mascot of "Hella-Burger", goes on a killing rampage. Although not terribly GOOD, this direct-to-DVD slasher IS pretty scary!


The Hole (2009)

Two brothers confront their deepest fears in Gremlins director Joe Dante's ghoulishly scary teen horror, as a mysterious hole in the basement of their new house unleashes something terrifying... Seriously, the scenes where the youngest is pursued and stalked by a demonic clown doll are more petrifying than most horrors with a higher certificate.


Zombieland (2009)

If there’s one thing worse than a clown, it’s a ZOMBIE clown. Thankfully he doesn’t get very far before Jesse Eisenberg smashes his brains in.


Stitches (2012)

A rare British entry, this horror-comedy stars stand-up comedian Ross Noble as a birthday clown who returns from the dead to exact revenge upon the children responsible for his death.


Clown (2014)

A father puts on a "cursed clown suit" (we’re not making this up) which slowly transforms him into a demonic circus freak in this gore-ridden thriller produced by horror maestro Eli Roth.


31 (2016)

"Rob Zombie’s sickest film to date" wrote one reviewer about the latest flick from the cult horror director. This one concerns a group of carnival workers fighting for their lives against killer clowns on Halloween night. Definitely not for faint-hearted.



What’s your favourite movie clown? Let us know @Cineworld. Stephen King's IT is released on 8th September. Check out the trailer again – if you dare!